The black experience is something both unique and varied. And most of all, they’re important and need to be shared and read. We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best books by black authors published recently. They range from realistic stories, to science fiction, mystery thrillers, investigative journalism and histories. From fiction to poetry, short stories to graphic novels, there is something here for every taste. So check out these authors telling our stories in our voices and doing it for The Culture.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give, aka T.H.U.G. is a young adult novel that follows a black teenage girl who lives in two worlds: the poor black neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. She is forced into activism when a childhood friend is unjustifiably killed in front of her by a police officer. The murder makes the national headlines and her friend is called a thug and a gangbanger. Being the only one that truly knows, the protagonist sets out to clear her friend’s name. Extremely timely and poignant. This is a great read for any young adult trying to figure out how to navigate in the current American climate. *And it will soon be a major motion picture relating in the fall of 2018*
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
More than just the source material for a hit motion picture, the Hidden Figures book tells the full story of the African-American women who worked as human computers to solve the most complex problems for the engineers at NASA. Fighting both racism and sexism they were kept in the background virtually hidden until they were brought to light in his book. The book shares more stories and sheds a spotlight on even more African-American women than the film could cover. It’s both informative and inspiring, something everyone should read.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
An ambitious, exuberant novel that goes from West London to West Africa focusing on two brown girls who dream of being dancers. One has the talent, the other has the ideas. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. A novel about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a very interesting look at friendships and the unavoidable connections between our pasts and present.
The Underground Railroad byColson Whitehead
Winner of the National Book Award for fiction, The Underground Railroad explores the journey of two enslaved black Americans from Southern bondage to Northern freedom. The twist here is that the Underground Railroad is not just a network of people, but a physical train.
Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall
A crime-thriller set in Los Angeles, starring a female detective onthe trail of a serial killer taking young, gifted black girls from the same neighborhood the detective grew up in. Fast paced, with all the great twist and turns you’d expect from a top entrant in the genre. And most interestingly, it gives voice to a rare figure in crime fiction: a highly complex, fully imagined black female detective.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
This provocative novel juxtaposes the story of a poor Cameroonian immigrant with his wealthy white employer. The books deals with the American economic crash of 2008 which has devastating effects on the main character and his family as the books shows them grappling with the emotions of love and disappointment, both in their new country and with each other. It is a hard-hitting, deep, and interesting story about family, class and the American dream that defies time and is still relevant today.
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith
This memoir by Mychal Denzel Smith explores what it is like to come of age as a black man in America during the tenure of the first black President and how, politically and culturally, the existing script for black manhood has been flipped for the millennial generation. Young men of this age have watched as Barack Obama was elected president but have also witnessed the deaths of so many other young black men killed by police or vigilante violence. Chronicling his personal and political education during these tumultuous years, Smith narrates his struggles to come into his own in a time of great hope and great despair. Personal and powerful.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The award-winning young-adult author pens her first book for adults in over a decade: a haunting tale of girls growing up in Brooklyn, NY in the 1970’s. A place that has two sides, one, sunny and hopeful where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, and brilliant. But beneath that veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. “A place where madness was just a sunset away.” A unique tale written in lyrical prose befitting a book set in one of the founding boroughs of hip-hop.
March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
The civil rights leader and congressman brings African-American history alive in this last part of his three-volume graphic novel series, a winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. True civil-rights stories accompanied by striking art make for a unique history lesson young people and grown folks alike can learn from and be inspired by.
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
This frighteningly clever novel exploring family, race and legacy is one of the smartest books to come out in a very long time. It follows a black family invited to an institute to help assist in a society-changing experiment because of their adeptness at sign language. Of course things aren’t as they seem and a horror, thriller, satire akin to Get Outensues as the book becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race. A must-read for lovers of satire and wit.
Written by @TalentedMrFord